Sexual Violence Awareness: Rape-Supportive Culture (Part 1)

Category: Fraternity

Melissa Shaub

Sexual violence, like many other issues, is complex and layered. It is difficult to express everything you want to say about a particular topic through short social media posts—hence our blog series. Over the past several weeks we have been posting resources and information as a part of a larger campaign to end sexual violence. In addition to sharing resources and statistics, it was important to me to discuss sexual violence in the context of rape-supportive culture.

It can be challenging and alarming to hear a term like “rape-supportive culture.” The term seems to imply that a culture would openly encourage rape and sexual violence. Instead, the term describes how myths about rape and sexual violence become the way we collectively think about rape as a society. Those of us in the society are complicit in continuing to unintentionally reinforce those myths (Although there are likely some people doing so intentionally). Until I began researching this topic a number of years ago, I realized I had been (unintentionally) reinforcing several myths about sexual violence.

Here are some examples of myths that support and reinforce rape-supportive culture.

  • Assuming that false reports of sexual violence occur more frequently than other crimes. In fact, false reports make up two to eight percent of rape reports,. This is consistent with, and in some cases lower than, other crimes.
  • Victim-blaming. For example, asking survivors, “What were you wearing?” “Were you flirting?” or “Were you drinking?” implying that the victim was responsible in some way.
  • Focusing on what the victim should or should not have done to prevent the assault, instead of focusing the responsibility on the person that chose to commit a crime of interpersonal violence.
  • Telling friends to not walk home alone, when in reality more than 80 percent of assaults are perpetrated by someone known to the victim.
  • Believing interpersonal violence is a women’s issue, when it affects all genders: men, women, and transgender individuals. Only the perpetrator of sexual assault can stop the crime, which is another reason to end the myth of this as a women’s issue.

In what ways are we perpetuating some of these myths? Are we co-sponsoring events with themes that objectify or sexualize a particular group of people, like women? Is our educational programming focusing only on what a victim should/should not do to prevent an assault?

Part 2, which will be posted next week, will explore strategies for overcoming these myths.